Yesterday, a group of approximately 1000 university students, teachers, librarians and learners marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria and witnessed the presentation of thousands of petitions and a memorandum to the Deputy Director-General of Basic Education Ms. Palesa Tyobeka. This is the third march in a series of marches taking place across South Africa as part of Equal Education’s Campaign for School Libraries.
EE's Campaign for School Libraries aims to have National Policy on School Libraries passed along with an implementation plan and budget allocation. The creation of librarian posts will stimulate demand for training and the establishment of new libraries will not only create librarian posts but provide a greater incentive for aspiring librarians to enroll for training. Among the demands EE outlines in its memorandum, is a call for the Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure to be signed, as provided for by Section 5A of the South African Schools Act, which includes the provision for water, electricity, sanitation and school libraries.
Memorable moments included a speech given by Zintle Makoba, a 20 year old who completed matric at Harold Cressy High School last year in Cape Town. She reminded us of the dire state of some South African public schools and the mentality it can foster. “I am tired of thinking that being black or coming from a disadvantaged background [is] a curse. I had to save my lunch money, and watch other learners eat, just to make photocopies. I had to queue in long lines just to use internet and by the time I got to use it, it was late. I don’t want the same thing to happen to my sister nor to anyone’s child.”
Ms. Palesa Tyobeka in her address endorsed EE stating that she was thankful and appreciated the work that Equal Education is doing. Ms. Tyobeka continued on to say that the Department of Education didn’t think of the march in a negative light and that the march was constructive. “We [the Department of Education] would be complacent if EE was not around. EE is justified to remind the government of our duties” she went on to say that she didn’t defend the problems or the fact that there are no school libraries and finished off by saying that, “ it [the absence of school libraries] is an issue that needs to be addressed”.
Yoliswa Dwane, Head of Policy, Communication and Research at Equal Education also spoke, “Freedom is [not] freedom with a poor education. Quality education will remain a distant dream if inequalities in our education system are not addressed. Our country needs a 10 year plan to bring schools up to the level of the best. Communities, the private sector, parents and everyone in this country should take part in improving the education system, however, the government, specifically the Department of Basic Education, should lead this process because the Constitution places the main obligation with them. We want access to basic education with quality.”
Notably, members of the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) and Amnesty international were among the marchers, as were teachers from the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) as shown above.